Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Is Raw, Honest Writing?

… continuing part II of What Do You As A Writer Bring To The Page?

Are you able to bring your heartbreak to the page? The pain of loss, rejection, abandonment, can you write about it? Can you pull from your most horrific memories, as well as your most joyous? What I’m talking about has nothing to do with your writing degree or your awards. Although commendable, and certainly admirable, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m asking, what do you--as a living, breathing, human being--bring to the page?

Dorothy Allison’s words at the Maui Writer’s Conference year ago were piercing. Delivered with pastoral fire and an urgency she said, “I’m here to deliver black coffee, I’m here to leaven your experience. I’m here to tell you part of why I’m a writer is that it’s one of the professions where you can be a fat girl and make it! Writers come to the page for many, many reasons. In fact, many of us DO come in the hope of justice, we DO come in the hope of balance, we DO come with an agenda of love, but I’m TELLING YOU NOW, lots of us start with a desire for genuine REVENGE.”

Do you bring revenge to your written pages? Anger? Truth?

“Lighten up,” you say? Okay. Sure.

You don’t need some deep, dark reason to write. You can definitely write for fun. Many do. Except that in my honest and humble opinion, the writing that lasts for generations is gathered from the cobwebbed corners of a writer’s mind. Those basements and attics where most writers fear to tread, but some go anyway.

“But,” you say, “I write humor.”

Ah, yes.  Well, dissect that funny stuff. Where does it come from? Most of it comes from pain. You know that old cliché, usually spoken in the midst of fear or anger. “We’re going to laugh about this later.” Laughter through tears ... is it not a powerful emotion? Many believe the angrier you are, the funnier you need to be. Take that to the page.

So don’t just write what you know. Write what you care about, what you feel deep in your gut. What you’ve seen. The heart-wrenching moments that cut deep into your mind and heart. Write about that. Write about the scars. Who gave them to you, and how you healed, or how you still suffer from those scars. Those hurts that won't heal. Give your character a piece of your life story you want to share with the world. Dig out the best and worst of your memories, and include them in your stories. It’s called raw, honest writing.

Write not just what you know, but what matters most to you. What has brought you out of a deep, dark spot? What makes you uncomfortable? Write your passions, your desires, what moves you. Write that.

Those are the guts of a good story. Bring that to the page.

In the late ‘nineties, I clawed my way out of a long, bleak period in my life. It not only developed an edge in my writing, but throughout those years, what kept me sane was journaling and reading every piece of fiction I could get my hands on.

I had secretly studied the craft of writing. When my friends and family found out about it, they adamantly let me know that writing was a big waste of my time. That because of my circumstances I needed to put my nose to the grindstone, and continue to collect that paycheck. “Don’t be a fool, Pam … few make it as writers … you’ll never write a book … are you crazy?”

I’m here to tell you, if it hasn’t happened already, someone along the way will question your commitment. Your work will continue to be rejected by not only those you know, but the publishing community. On your way to publishing, you will question your ability, your purpose, and your sanity. Even after you're published, you're still bombarded with the same mental anguish. I’m telling you so when it hits, you’ll recognize it for what it is. It’s part of the job. 

Writing is a profession where you pour your guts out on the page, bleed over every chapter, spend years writing the best story your mind, heart, and fingers can produce, labor days and nights on perfecting work that may or may never be seen ... and somebody is always waiting in the wings to tell you how bad you suck.

Sometimes, after reading over your work for the millionth time, you will still find mistakes. You cry, pound your fist on the keyboard, run your hand through your hair and think -- they’re right. I suck. Which is how I felt when the above picture was taken. I was at that Southern restaurant, Sticky Fingers, talking about how bad I sucked as a writer and had one too many cold ones.
Anway, you get my point. You begin to understand that perfection can only be born out of rejection and mentors pointing out the obvious. Obvious to everyone but you. And yet, even then, the perfect manuscript does not exist.

Rejection is not only part of becoming a bonifide writer, it’s crucial that it happens. And often. Each “Thanks but no thanks” – each “NO” is a brick upon which we build our tower to Publishing Glory. A writer who has not experienced the critical reviews of their peers, the public, and those within the industry is missing something special. They’re missing the chance to experience the rush of adrenaline that fuels the fire inside to never give up. It’s a writer’s high. A necessary surge of energy to survive in this business.

Come back again soon … there’s more to come in this series … What Do You Bring To The Page?

Blessings to you and yours.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

I've always felt writers should wear their rejections like badges of honor. It doesn't mean you failed, it means you tried.